About the Prairie Style
Frank Lloyd Wright's inspiration for an indigenous architecture had its roots in the flat, expansive prairie landscape of the American Midwest where he grew up. “The prairie has a beauty of its own and we should recognize and accentuate this natural beauty, its quiet level. Hence, gently sloping roofs, low proportions, quiet sky lines, suppressed heavy-set chimneys and sheltering overhangs, low terraces and out-reaching walls sequestering private gardens,” he wrote, listing some of the characteristics of what came to be known as the Prairie style of architecture.
Wright and the draftsmen in his Oak Park studio reacted against the historical revivalism prevalent in American architecture at the time and sought to create a new aesthetic that combined functionality and beauty, and reflected the natural surroundings. They succeeded in redefining American residential architecture.
The typical Prairie style home is distinguished by a horizontal line emphasized on the exterior by a low-pitched hipped roof, long bands of windows, wide overhanging eaves and brick courses or wood bands. Inside, the floor plan is open and radiates outward from a central fireplace. Furnishings are not secondary elements, but integral to the design, and hence often consist of built-ins. Construction materials and finishes are natural, and ornamentation is often restricted to art glass windows that function as “light screens,” blurring the distinction between interior and exterior spaces.
Wright's Robie House, designed in the Oak Park Studio in 1908, is an excellent example of a Prairie style design.